Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More on illegal immigration

Here's an essay by Thomas Sowell on the deliberately twisted, Orwellian rhetoric and rationalizations of the pro-illegal immigration crowd ("Guests or Gate Crashers"):

What if bank robbers who were caught were simply told to give the money back and not do it again? What if murderers who were caught were turned loose and warned not to kill again? Would that be proof that it is futile to take action, when no action was taken?

Michelle Malkin has the goods on the Los Angeles area schools that supported their students in joining the pro-illegal immigration protests--including providing busing and supervising the students! ("Free Rides for Student Protestors"):

"If this law passes, what will happen? There would be no more Los Angeles High School. Nearly all of us are immigrants," said Yadira Pech, a 16-year-old junior from Los Angeles High.

"We need to show that we have a voice," Pech said.

If this girl means that nearly all of them are illegal immigrants, then the U.S. Immigration bureau needs to get a team over to that neighborhood and start checking for visas and green cards. If she means that the school is full of legal immigrants, why would they care if the law passes?

Here's your best bet on how to report an illegal alien. And here are some of the sad stories of people with good hearts taken advantage of by illegal aliens.

I remember when the INS used to check for green cards and visas in the 1970s, before Ted Kennedy and the other "Lawmakers who love lawbreakers" lobbied for our informal immigration policy of benign neglect for illegal aliens crossing our borders and remaining at large in our land.

Here's the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's "Overview of INS History" describing the development of various U.S. laws and movements in regard to our country's immigrants over time and up to the present. Overland migrants from Mexico and Canada were largely ignored and excluded from official oversight for most of our country's history, as it was immigrants from Europe and later from Eastern Europe and Asia who made up the bulk of the nation's immigrants. In the 20th century the world wars increased America's concern about its borders in general. Migrant worker programs were set in place to monitor Hispanics brought in to handle agricultural work while U.S. men went to war.

It was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that required employers for the first time to determine the citizenship status of employees they hired, and was the most comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration law since 1952. When President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation, he said about the new law:

It will remove the incentive for illegal immigration by eliminating the job opportunities which draw illegal aliens here. We have consistently supported a legalization program which is both generous to the alien and fair to the countless thousands of people throughout the world who seek legally to come to America. The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans.

The new law granted "amnesty" for illegal aliens already in the U.S. Ironic, is it not, that we are hearing the same words and ideas all over again? Because the previous hopeful amnesty program failed when the laws prohibiting illegal immigration and illegal hiring of non-U.S. citizens were not enforced.

Here's another good site detailing "U.S. Immigration History" (Federation for American Immigration Reform).

The Heritage Foundation has a plan for an "immigrant guestworker" program. How is this different in substance from the 1986 program, and will it be any more successful in stemming our porous borders? The American people have reason to be suspicious and skeptical, based on past performance.

Personally, I love immigrants, and I welcome all legal immigrants to our country. They are the lifeblood of our nation, when they choose and want to come here as legal, contributing citizens who respect and buy into the American dream. All my own ancestors were immigrants, and I have helped teach English as a second language to immigrants. Without caring where they come from, I admire and respect their initiative, their sacrifices, their work ethic, their family values, and their gratitude for what our country can offer them.

And personally, I say to illegal immigrants: you are breaking our laws. Stay home and apply and wait your turn, as the other legal immigrants on our waiting lists who follow our laws are doing. Who are you, who think you deserve special consideration to cut in line before law-abiding immigrants?

To my legislators I say: get off your duffs and reform our immigration policies to make sure they are fair and impartial to all of those immigrants of all nations who want to come here. Make sure the process is streamlined and up-to-date (how about privatizing a lot of it, maybe??). Most importantly, SECURE OUR BORDERS NOW. All immigrants should be documented and accounted for, especially since 9/11. And while you are busy reforming immigration law, why don't you limit immigrants to those who are eager and willing to respect our laws, work hard, and to prove they wish to assimilate into U.S. culture, language, and values? We have to limit on some basis, so why not those characteristics, which will serve us--and them--best?

And to Vincente Fox, President of Mexico, I say: what are you doing to ensure our common border is secure and all migration across it both ways is monitored and documented? What are you doing to ensure that all immigrants crossing into the U.S. are legal? I know, don't laugh. But I believe President Bush should be asking President Fox that question publicly and privately, even if it is only a useless rhetorical query. Fox should be held accountable (if only in world public opinion) for his egregious dereliction to his own people and to our laws.

Monday, March 27, 2006


"Somos illegales, no criminales!" ("Most telling placard slogan" seen at the weekend Los Angeles protests, via Slate's kausfiles.) It means, "We are illegals, not criminals!"

Something's sure gotten lost in translation! Someone should tell these people that if you do something illegal and break the laws of our country, it does, by definition, make you a criminal. Breaking the law is what crime is all about. Crossing the border illegally and staying in this country as "undocumented citizens" (the latest twisted oxymoron to describe illegal non-citizens) is a crime.

And here's more on the big Rally for Illegal Immigration and Porous Borders in Los Angeles over the weekend:

Welcome to Reconquista (see also Minutemen Attacked, both at Michelle Malkin's blog)

A classic worth revisiting: "Do We Want Mexifornia?" by Victor Davis Hanson

(Bonus link for today: "This Old House" by Victor Davis Hanson--good writing, thoughtful reading, as always)

Creating children from broken family ties

Here's a very modern story covered by CBS News (via Dick Eastman's Online Genealogical Newsletter) entitled "Sperm Donor Siblings Find Family Ties." It's the story of lesbian couples and single mothers who decide to create children for themselves via artificial insemination using donor sperm from unknown men. The funny part is, human nature being not as malleable as technology, the children who result from these proceedings grow up insatiably curious about and missing their fathers. Lo and behold, though the "fathers" remain (for the most part) shielded by anonymity laws, the siblings fathered by such techniques (or even their mothers) are now using technology--the internet--to network and track their genealogical roots in the name of forging family ties.

The article by Steve Kroft tells about the amazing coincidence of three mothers who met in the San Diego area and realized their children were all conceived (artificially) from the same "sensitive" "hunk." Now they consider their children (and are raising them) as "siblings" (siblings living in different households, all with no father):

Cindy and Robin say they really consider Wade and Lila to be brother and sister.

"They have each other. They don't have the donor, the father; they have each other," Robin explains.

The two children live just 10 minutes apart. Their mothers talk frequently on the phone, get together every few weeks, and say they have begun to raise Wade and Lila as siblings.

"We love Maren, the mother. We love baby Lila. I mean, we have a lot in common. We're a great family match," says Robin.

In this case, the sperm donor decided to break his anonymity, and was interviewed by the journalist:.

Kroft asks: "When you decided to become a sperm donor, did you actually sit down and think that there were going to be babies created out of this and that someday they might try and contact you? Or you might try and contact them?"

"I guess I entertained the possibility of that. You know, I look at it a little differently," Niedner says. "This may sound a little detached, but I don't really look at these children as my children or, you know, that I'm their father. I was somebody who provided a tool or a necessary ingredient for a family to have a child that was wanted."

Niedner says he is not interested in fulfilling any sort of parental role.

"Do you think the children will think that way?" Kroft asks.

"Well, I don't think there's a blanket answer to that. I think different children will feel differently," he says.

Just beautiful.

I'm sorry, but I must admit this article angers and sickens me. These people seem scary for being so emotionally detached from reality outside of their own self-interest. Too many adults here were concerned only with their own needs and wishes (the sperm donor for money in selling his sperm; the women for fulfilling their desires for a pseudo-traditional "family" while purposely trying to redefine what "family" means, especially to the child). The technology makes it easy for people like these adults to rationalize what they are doing: deliberately creating children without a father in their home.

Meanwhile, I urge my own children to make darn sure they make good choices so that their own children (if they are blessed enough to have any) will be born and raised into a intact nuclear family, as the best thing you can do for the child, which should be the overriding consideration. Childless same-sex couples and single parents who want to do good in this world by raising children can devotedly provide a better life for abandoned orphans by adopting or fostering them; this clearly is a net good deed that shines in the sight of heaven and earth. But to purposely create vanity children born into fatherless families is indicative of some kind of monstrous selfishness and moral confusion at work.

"I mean, what is a traditional family today? I mean, I didn't have a father growing up," Cindy says.
Lots of people don't have fathers growing up, but the best of them have the imagination and the character not to pass such a painful legacy of loss on to their own children.

UPDATE: "The Incredible Shrinking Father" by Kay S. Hymowitz: in the competition between the rights of adults and the needs of children, who's winning? --
Yet even if the numbers of those suffering from father hunger are relatively small, their plight is consistent with a powerful human theme explored by storytellers from Homer to George Lucas: the child’s longing to know his father. On websites, unhappy donor kids are beginning to speak up. “I believe that it is a tragic turn for our society to celebrate fathers who intentionally disconnect themselves from their children,” writes the proprietor of “I’m 18 and for most of my life, I haven’t known half my origins,” Katrina Clark wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this past fall. Donor conception has always been about making adults happy, not children, she continued. As a child, she found herself jealous of a friend whose parents were divorced; at least the girl got to visit her father.

IceRocket searches only blogs

If you have become interested in reading blogs as an indicator of what's currently popular in the wired human mind, check out this new search engine that searches only blogs (but it is case-sensitive, so you have to spell "Danish" with a capital D, for example):

Thanks to Annoying Pedant.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Updates in the news

Regarding Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert being held in Afghanistan for sentencing and possible execution, the Bush administration has finally gotten involved (via Drudge). Amnesty International has it right, as does Frist:

Amnesty International also weighed in on the trial, demanding Rahman's release.

"No individual should ever be persecuted — let alone executed — for his or her religious beliefs. The freedom to practice one's own faith without fear of retribution is one of humanity's most sacred rights. If Rahman has been imprisoned solely because he converted to Christianity, he must be immediately and unconditionally released," said Amnesty International Executive Director William F. Schulz.

Separately, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist urged Rice to "use every diplomatic means necessary" to ensure Rahman's immediate release.

"I am greatly concerned by Mr. Rahman's prosecution and the challenge his case presents to the future of Afghanistan. It is fair to say that the United States has not spent the last four plus years liberating, defending, rebuilding and assisting Afghanistan's democratic development only to see the Afghani people remain subject to laws reminiscent of the Taliban's reign," Frist said.

Michelle Malkin features the Afghan response. Sickening is right.

Michelle also has the latest on the Christian Peacemaker Team members held hostage in Iraq who were rescued Thursday from their bloodthirsty captors by British and U.S. coalition troops--but whose organization could not bring itself to thank their rescuers or even acknowledge at first that a rescue took place. Unbelievable. I question what kind of Christians could not even bring themselves to acknowledge gratitude to those who risked their own lives to save them. This tellingly reveals that these so-called "Peacemakers" are first and foremost leftist idealogues covered with a thin patina of faith-based jargon--to them, if the facts don't fit their world-view, they just ignore the facts and spin the story, much as the Soviets would habitually whitewash facts to fit their political views. I call the Coalition rescuers the true heroes here. The "Peacemakers" should be ashamed (but I doubt they have the ability to see that clearly).

Hillary Clinton jumps with both feet into the muddy waters of those purposely confusing legal immigrants with illegal immigrants (via Drudge).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Daily links

Iraq the Model writes a thoughtful essay on the third anniversary of the Iraq War (via Instapundit), including this excerpt (read the whole thing):

I will just ignore the weepers, whiners, teenagers and half educated naïve people and their silly rallies as I don't want to waste time on people who can do nothing but blindly oppose everything without thinking. I will ignore them and focus on the more important goals we want to reach here…

Life stopped and time stopped when Saddam ruled Iraq, actually that totalitarian regime was moving backwards and dragging us with it and nothing could stop the deterioration that began the moment Saddam came to power. We had to accept the change and live with all that would come along with it whether good or bad.

The democracy we're practicing today in Iraq is the exact opposite of what we had for decades and until three years ago. This democracy carries the essence of life, the differences, the dynamics and yes, the failures but also the seed of a better future.

Michelle Malkin has the lastest about the Afghani man, "Abdul Rahman, the Christian convert facing the death penalty in Afghanistan for possessing a Bible and openly professing his faith." In an earlier post, she details how Germany and Italy have joined in protesting the sharia law in Afghanistan which may soon be used to put this man to death for his Christian beliefs. And here she links to an ABC News summary:

Despite the overthrow of the fundamentalist Taliban government and the presence of 22,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a man who converted to Christianity is being prosecuted in Kabul, and a judge said Sunday that if convicted, he faces the death penalty.

Abdul Rahman, who is in his 40s, says he converted to Christianity 16 years ago while working as an aid worker helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Relatives denounced him as a convert during a custody battle over his children, and he was arrested last month. The prosecutor says Rahman was found with a Bible.

Is this the kind of new government in Afghanistan our service people fought to establish? No word from President Bush or the administration on this issue.

Write the embassy of Afghanistan:

Ambassador Said T. Jawad
Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Contact the State Department:

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Main Switchboard:

Email President Bush:

Another reason (via Neal Boortz) to implement the Fair Tax as soon as possible (which will abolish the IRS).

A police state that regulates politcal speech? Couldn't happen here could it, Mr. McCain and Mr. Feingold?

Wooo--John Stossel is steaming at the teachers' unions again (via Boortz):

Perhaps the most fundamentally flawed idea is this all-too-common one: "Public schools were created to provide a 'public good': education for all, regardless of a family's ability to pay ... By contrast, under a voucher system that gives public dollars to completely unmonitored private schools, there is no such right to expect or demand accountability for student performance or how tax dollars are spent." They don't get it. Competition brings accountability. Private schools may be "unmonitored" by bureaucrats, but they face the most demanding kind of supervision our society provides: a market full of freely choosing individuals. Parents' desire for a good education for their children is a much more powerful check on schools than any politician's law or union rule. The people who want to control every young American's education like to talk about accountability, but what they want is to make schools accountable to anointed bureaucrats who think they know what's best for all of us. They evade real accountability -- the kind of accountability where if a student or parent realizes a school isn't doing its job, he can find another one.

To "know it by heart"

My daughter is required to memorize (and "know by heart") the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States in her fourth-grade class at (public) school:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I'm delighted she's required to memorize something, and that memorization as a technique of learning has not been jettisoned or deemed too old-fashioned by her teachers. I'm especially glad she's memorizing something as important as this. Not only does it have some great vocabulary words for her to master, but it also neatly encapsulates what our government was intended to provide for. She'll appreciate the meaning of this more and more throughout the rest of her life.

I somehow managed to escape having to memorize the Preamble when I was a kid, but I remember being about her age and cramming to memorize (as I paced to and fro before my mother's petunias) Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. I was recently watching an old Hollywood movie on TV as I folded laundry and saw an actor portraying Lincoln recite this speech at the bedside of a fallen Civil War soldier. It gave me goosebumps.

Too bad today's Hollywood no longer passes on such positive cultural heritage. I was surprised by how much of the speech I remembered flawlessly. I was also surprised by what a superlative speech it was, still is, and always will be. A child cannot appreciate that.

Memorization is a good technique for making something important your own. I recently came across something important in a passage written by Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America:

In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for it in the fertile fields, and boundless prairies, and it was not there. I sought it in her rich mines, and vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought it in her democratric Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great. The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.

It took a foreigner and thus an "outsider" as a more objective observer to see what was especially unique and essential about America that we could not and still cannot see, being so familiar with it and therefore taking it so for granted. But we all know what happens when something important is overlooked and taken for granted.

I think I want to memorize this passage, a passage that, sadly, will never be assigned for memorization in a public school, because it mentions churches and pulpits in a positive light. But I think it conveys an idea and an historical truth just as important to take to heart as the ideas and historical truths in the Preamble to the Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.

And after all, it's never too late and you're never too old for your heart to learn something "new."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Daily links

Here's a Christian response challenging the truth of The DaVinci Code.

And here's a link to Charles Krauthammer's article, "Pandora and Polygamy" (thanks to Annoying Pedant). Good writing, as usual.

Neal Boortz gives his usual gimlet look at the French rioters wanting guaranteed jobs. Guess they don't teach much economics in France, either.

Roger L. Simon discusses further the case of the Taliban spokesperson admitted to Yale.

Victor Davis Hanson's last word on the Dubai port deal.

"Anti-war protests fizzle in U.SA." (via Drudge)

Zombietime and his camera covered the "Global Day of Action Rally" (Iraq war protests) AND the Anarchist Book Fair 2006 last weekend in San Francisco so you didn't have to! (Great snapshots; naughty words & protest posters).

Friday, March 17, 2006

Yale no, we won't go

Here's a wonderful article by Anne Morse called "Anywhere But Yale: My son’s going nowhere near New Haven" (via Bookworm Room) that sums up my reaction, too, to the apologist for the Taliban being admitted to Yale. Guess there are more like me across America and I hope we make our sentiments felt. I also think Senator John Cornyn has the right idea: deport the guy (via Boortz). Every woman in America and other freedom-loving countries who remembers the images of the Taliban executing Afghani women in the soccer stadium should be seriously outraged.

I would also like to hear statements from President Bush and John Kerry about this (both of them being alumni of Yale).

Hyphenated Americans

Here's one of my pet peeves....

I am old enough to have been through a few public renamings of the so-called African-American cohort in this country. When I was a little girl, blacks were known respectfully as Negroes (as in "the United Negro College Fund;" I remember their public-service announcements on TV and their great, memorable tag line: "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," which impressed me deeply). My grandparents still called blacks "coloreds" when I was little (as in "the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People"), but I could discern that that term had somehow grown passé since the Shirley Temple era; it was more polite somehow when I was in elementary school in the early 1960s to refer to the Negroes, in my classes and in our nation, as "Negroes." I somehow understood even then (probably following the examples of my schoolteachers) that one term was preferred over the other, as a show of respect.

I was in junior high school in 1968. Around that time I was cogent enough about current events to be aware that blacks (or most young blacks, or the most publicly outspoken blacks, including those proponents of Black Power) had undertaken to change the way they referred to themselves and the way they wished to be referred to. Now it was to be the word "black" instead of Negro that was to be used to show respect.

I remain happy to show deference and respect to most people's images of themselves (the Golden Rule and all). I usually have no problem with calling people what they wish to be called, but when it comes to the term "African-American" I am sorry, but I have to balk.

This is the term, beginning in the 1960s and attaining more prominence in the late 1980s (especially in 1988 when endorsed by Jesse Jackson), that many polite, well-meaning people in the U.S. who wish to show respect now use to refer to U.S. blacks. But I won't use it, for a couple of reasons, none of which, I don't think, have to do with questions of respect or deference:

As an American of mostly German heritage myself, I could conceivably be similarly labeling myself a German-American (and I do love my German heritage and want to remember it and venerate it)--except that this label would be a gross inaccuracy on several levels.

First, it wittingly slights my many other ancestors who weren't German. (Do "African-Americans" really wish to slight all of their non-African ancestors en masse, along racial/racist lines?) Such one-sided promotion is inaccurate, biased, and untrue. I want to embrace all of my ancestors and my family's roots, and really the best way to do that is to be not a hyphenated American, but just a plain old American, which has always meant a full citizen of our crazy-quilt homeland of people of all nations, colors, cultures, and stories.

Secondly, calling myself a German-American would lead any ordinary person to assume I or my German ancestors were recently right off the boat. In reality my latest foreign-born forebears set foot on Ellis Island in 1904. I feel the only people in my family tree who could properly call themselves German-Americans were those who were born in Germany and who immigrated to the U.S. and were granted U.S. citizenship. There is only one generation in each family tree branch that can properly call itself that--a truly hypenated American generation.

Third, the ghosts of my German ancestors would haunt me if they ever heard me passing myself off as a hypenated American. They made many sacrifices and endured real hardships to cross an ocean, build a new life and a new identity, and they were grateful and proud to have left the disadvantages of the Old World behind and become American citizens--and by golly, they'd want me to stand up for what they'd achieved. This in no way means I need renounce the culture that shaped them, and by extension, me. But after their immigration and two searing World Wars wherein my German ancestors in the U.S. had to choose where their full allegiance lay once and for all, they definitively renounced hypenated Americanism as a trap and a tragedy, and saw both the importance and the goodness in being what they and we are all: Americans.

I can understand that some blacks have a justified resentment that their black ancestors were brought here in chains. Some of their ancestors did not have a choice in emigrating from their homelands. But is that historical resentment big enough to be codified in a label reflecting renouncement of unadulterated U.S. citizenship for their entire cohort en masse?

As a copyeditor and proofreader, I would be all over the term "African-American" with a leaky red pen. Such a label makes scant sense for what it purports to refer to. Most "African-Americans" here in the U.S. were not born in Africa only to subsequently become naturalized U.S. citizens, which is what the label implies. Many blacks in the U.S. have closer ties to other foreign countries than they do to the continent of Africa. And many Africans who move to the U.S. and/or gain citizenship here are not black. To use "African-American" as a synonym for native-born U.S. blacks (many of whom have been in the U.S. for generations) is a terrible and confusing misnomer which frankly, sounds embarrassingly ignorant.

Call me racist for that last statement if you will; I don't care because I am not a racist. I am happy to refer to people as they wish to be referred to, but not at the expense of tarring them all with an ignorant-sounding label that someone should have edited out before they trumpeted it as the latest preferred label of respect.

Make sense, people.

And don't call me by the trendy new label, Euro-American or European-American, either. Blech, ptui. I am an American, and if you insist on labeling me as to my skin color (which I take exception to as contrary to the ideals of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.), I'm white. (It's nobody else's business, really, but it's also pretty obvious as I go about my life, and people, especially racists, will always label). But while I celebrate my own unique blend of cultural heritages and my plucky, lucky ancestors, I prefer that those who want to "label" me with a term of respect just call me an American. That's the heritage I embrace most.

LaShawn Barber agrees with nixing "African-American." Read this article by her, too.

For more background, see the Wikipedia article on "African American" and "Not Black and White" by J. A. Foster-Bey.

"Thank God my grand-daddy got on that boat!" --Muhammad Ali

UPDATE: Go Back to Black: "I'm black again."

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

I'm "published"


One of my past posts here ("Old World/New World") has just been accepted into the latest Carnival of German-American Relations, organized by Atlantic Review. Guess I'm a real blogger now! I think this is my "first link."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Daily links

If you think only bad news is coming out of Iraq (every day another bombing is what's highlighted and hyped in urgent soundbytes by the mainstream media), you aren't getting around the internet much. Check out "The Utah of the Middle East" by Michael J. Totten, just for one example. Thanks for this link goes to the entertaining and enlightening Davids Medienkritik, who campaigns tirelessly against a similar anti-American media bias in German "news" (see the maddening and ridiculous American stereotypes featured in Stern magazine--is this what most Germans think of us? Pathetic.)

Davids Medienkritik also today tips us off to the latest Carnival of German-American Relations, including this pseudo Kafka-esque entry by a German: "The Day I Woke as [not a cockroach, but a] Pro-American." ("Pro-American! How low can you get?"). Part II is here.

Finally, EconoMama forwards this essay evaluating the Fair Tax: "Would the Fair Tax Raise or Lower Marginal and Average Tax Rates?" at the National Bureau of Economic Research website. This bunch is "a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community." They are also the people who get to pronounce when we are in a recession. Somebody has to do it!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Modern martyrs

Regarding the death of Tom Fox, American hostage found murdered in Iraq, The Autonomist has some words (via Michelle Malkin), including these:

The Utopian fanatics who killed Tom Fox could not have cared less whether or not he was sympathetic towards them, or if he hated them or whether he believed in God, or not. They could not have cared less if he had a family and friends who loved him. They did not care for his compassion. They did not care that, on some levels, he even empathized with them; they who held him captive. They did not care that, in his way, he was trying to help alleviate the suffering of their brothers and sisters.

All Tom Fox was to his captors and murderers was filth-- a piece of garbage; a weak, vile, subhuman infidel of the Western variety; a creature to be spit on and reviled and, when no longer of use, slaughtered like an animal and then discarded. They treated Mr. Fox like they would treat us all, as stones to be kicked aside while building the road to Paradise. They treated Mr. Fox, and if given the chance they'd treat us all, like the Nazis treated the Jews.

I hope his martyrdom will have some good come of it, so his death will not have been in vain.

Speaking of martyrs, The Real Cuba website has celebrated its first anniversary, showcasing with photos and stories the plight of the Cuban people under the tyrany of Fidel Castro. Be sure to checkout The Two Cubas webpage, the Free Healthcare? page and The Real Che page, along with the rest. Meanwhile, is Canada wising up about Cuba?

Finally, the story (via Roger L. Simon) of Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American who criticized Islam and some of its adherents on Al Jazeera television recently and is now receiving death threats.

Food for thought as we go about living our comfortable lives.

Nonsense on parade

"75,000 people marched for lawlessness in Chicago" (via Michelle Malkin).

This rally was seemingly a feel-good and deliberate triumph of emotionalism and obfuscation of the issues over clear thinking. But obviously it is to the advantage of illegal aliens (and those who make a career advocating for them) to lump themselves into the cohort of legal immigrants and claim the same rights (and assert the same "victimizations") for all--missing the point of immigration reform entirely.

I would think legal U.S. immigrants from all nations, those who followed the rules and took their turns in order to enter this country by the book, would feel especially insulted by these people who agitate (especially with such specious arguments) in favor of the line-jumping lawbreakers. Meanwhile, with so many illegal immigrants from Latin America at large in our country with impunity already, Americans aware of the numbers naturally start to feel suspicious and resentful toward anyone who looks or sounds like they might have illegally jumped the southern border. This is not racism: it's suspicion born of facts, but it's the legal Hispanic immigrants who are most unfairly hurt by the mass suspicion engendered by the actions of the illegal Hispanics.

There are some who claim that advocates for border security and accountability in making sure that all immigrants are legally documented are racists. Rather, it is they who are the racists, playing the inflammatory race card as a distraction while they actively work to sully the name and demean the reputation of all Hispanics in order to achieve their goal of lumping the criminals in with the legals.

Personally I don't care, racially speaking, if it's Martians or Canadians or Tibetans coming across our borders; I don't care what language they speak, what food they prefer or what color their skin is--but if they jump the line to evade the law to crash our party and further intend to wander at large or hide indefinitely thereafter throughout our country without being accountable for their actions as U.S. citizens must be (including using forged documents to attain work or services, or driving cars without licenses or insurance, or failing to pay taxes), they need to be apprehended and deported.

What this current culture of lawlessness does to both them as individuals and to us as a country is an incalculable and growing harm. And though I would welcome a concurrent loosening of the immigration laws to allow for more immigrants from around the world to make America their home (it's a win-win situation for us and for them), I think it would be to our nation's advantage (if we still retain any quota systems at all, as we have from the 1920s) to make sure the people we welcome bring some good traits along with them to ensure their success in America and America's success with them. A conscious appreciation for America's institutions, history, and values and a willingness to learn English and abide by our laws would be a minimal start.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Succumbing to the league of soccer moms

We finally broke down and bought one of these last week. Our fatal slip was when we test-drove one and both my Dreamboat and I and both children fell head over heels in love with it; after that everything else we looked at could not compare--neither in flash nor performance. Of course we wouldn't have even climbed into the thing if my Dreamboat hadn't done all the research that assured us the Odyssey was a technically superior family auto. Since I've already been driving my beloved Honda Accord station wagon for the past 10 years, I am a big fan of Honda cars anyway. So the transition to a newer and larger model Honda, as our older wagon ages into a local runabout, is not at all traumatic in that sense. It has the same great Honda engineering, with an incredible (even tighter than the wagon!) turning radius, and an automatic transmission in contrast to the wagon's stick shift, which I had liked just fine, but driving an automatic does turn out to be so much simpler and easier....

--leaving me a free hand so now I too can yak incessantly on my cellphone while I drive with half a brain.... NOT! Just kidding! I will resist that last vice which I abhor, even if I am now a mother and a woman of a certain age at the wheel of a lumbering 'van.

We are all delighted with our new wheels except I am having difficulty handling my image problem. Part of why I liked my old Honda Accord was because it was not a minivan or an SUV, so I could remain sniffy and superior, not only about saving gas, but also about still being a maverick, an individual, and not being part of the cellphone-yakking, suburban fleet of soccer moms lurching around the highways. Even as more and more SUVs and vans and Suburbans crowded me out and blocked me in at intersections and in parking lots....even as driving my children around became more dangerous surrounded by these innumerable behemoths while I remained low to the ground, without even a front passenger-side airbag....

Now we even have "curtain side airbags," whatever those are (may we never find out). We have a security alarm system that goes off for two minutes of excruciatingly loud honking to deter car theft (as I discovered in the church parking lot last Sunday, when I couldn't figure out how to turn it off). In every way our beautiful new wheels are superior and fabulous, safer, easier, quieter, more comfortable and more capacious for our long roadtrips or for hauling friends or stuff. But I am having to eat my hat and humble myself and beg pardon for my former stereotyping. For I'm now just another private in the suburban American minivan/minimom army. Though my children never played soccer in their lives, I must reconcile myself now to being, in the eyes of the world, a full-fledged, suburban soccer mom.

(Lucky me!)

Daily links / grab-bag 'o stuff

Literal slavery is still alive and operational in some parts of the world, including Iraq, according to Jim Kouri, who does not mince words:

The worst countries listed by the U.S. State Department and the United Nations are: Bolivia, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Kuwait, Mexico, North Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Their records for protecting men, women, and children from becoming enslaved are abysmal.

We'll get the U.N. on that and have it taken care of by lunchtime.

This article by Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times (via Neal Boortz) mentions Qatar and Malaysia as showing "Islam's Tolerant Face":

Qatar is further behind [than Malaysia] on the road toward democracy. Despite a new constitution that creates an elected parliament, power remains in the hands of a hereditary emir, Sheik Hamad ibn Khalifa al Thani. But Qatar is a relatively benign autocracy. Although it is one of only two Wahhabi states in the world (Saudi Arabia is the other), its people are not terrorized by vice squads wielding a puritanical interpretation of the Koran. Liquor is available, and lots of women go around unveiled. The emir has even set aside land for Christian congregations to build churches, and they are allowed to import Bibles — something that is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. The emir's outspoken wife has became a high-profile champion of women's rights, and not long ago, Qatar became the first Persian Gulf Arab state to appoint a female cabinet minister.

Note to self: find out what it means to be a Wahhabi state that permits liquor and Bibles.

John at Powerline observes how the Washington Post is rewriting history on violence against Muslims in America:

What I really wanted to comment on, though, was this sentence near the beginning of the Post's article:

The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.

That's a false statement. In fact, the restraint that Americans showed in the months after September 11 in not blaming American Muslims for the attacks, let alone carrying out violent attacks on them, was remarkable. Nevertheless, what we're seeing here is history being rewritten. In a few years, it will be commonplace for books, newspapers, magazines and television broadcasts to record as a "fact" that after September 11, "Muslims were often targeted for violence." And I'm afraid that's what our children and grandchildren will be taught in school, regardless of the actual facts.

The Simi Valley Sophist explains why he cancelled his subscription to his local liberal newspaper after 30 years. I reached the same conclusion a few years back myself. Thank goodness the internet provides a generous consolation prize for news junkies.

Some pretty weird Volkswagen commercials, via Davids Medienkritik.

Today's bonus link: A historical summary by Raymond Kraft ("It Will Be the Death of Liberalism") to revisit to remember why we fight (do read the whole thing):

In the 20th Century, it was western democracy vs. communism, and before that western democracy vs. Nazism, and before that Western democracy vs. German Imperialism. Western democracy won, three times, but it wasn't cheap, fun, nice, easy, or quick. Indeed, the wars against German Imperialism (World War I), Nazi Imperialism (World War II), and communist imperialism (the 40-year Cold War that included the Vietnam Battle, commonly called the Vietnam War, but itself a major battle in a larger war) covered almost the entire century.

The first major war of the 21st Century is the war between Western Judeo/Christian Civilization and Wahhabi Islam. It may last a few more years, or most of this century. It will last until the Wahhabi branch of Islam fades away, or gives up its ambitions for regional and global dominance and Jihad, or until Western Civilization gives in to the Jihad.

And while we are revisiting past essays, here's another by Larry Abraham ("The Clash of Civilizations and the Great Caliphate"), which puts things into perspective with the words "It Did Not Start on 9/11:"

The war we are now facing did not begin on September 11, 2001, nor will it end with the peaceful transition to civilian authorities in Iraq, whenever that may be. In fact, Iraq is but a footnote in the bigger context of this encounter, but an important one none the less.

This war is what the Jihadists themselves are calling the “ Third Great Jihad” and are doing so within the framework of a time line which reaches back to the very creation of Islam in the Seventh century and their attempts to recreate the dynamics which gave rise to the religion in the first two hundred years of its existence....

Again, read the whole thing, and ponder what's at stake for us and the world, and where a student with an SUV in North Carolina or a student with a bomb in Oklahoma might fit into the bigger picture.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

And then there's the battlefield in North Carolina....

Via Michelle Malkin, here's the background story on the Duke Disruptors at David Horowitz's recent speech at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (soon to be shown on C-SPAN). A better illlustration of Horowitz's point could not have been made.

Also via Michelle, the latest analysis and roundup of the story of the Tarheel Terrorist who drove a jeep into a crowd of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, intending to kill as many as possible to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world." Be sure to also click on The Locker Room's essay, "Are N.C. colleges still a magnet for Islamic radicals?"

Mike S. Adams has been on the case of the North Carolina University system for some time now.

And some people go to college just to get an education....

A grateful mayor

Spirit of America's blog highlights a farewell letter to the 3d Armored Cavalry written by the mayor of the city in Iraq that was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi, including this moving passage about the city's saviours:

Officers and soldiers alike bristle with the confidence and character of knights in a bygone era. The mission they have accomplished, by means of a unique military operation, stands among the finest military feats to date in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and truly deserves to be studied in military science. This military operation was clean, with little collateral damage, despite the ferocity of the enemy. With the skill and precision of surgeons they dealt with the terrorist cancers in the city without causing unnecessary damage.

God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women.

From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget.

To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land.

Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

Indeed. Read the whole thing and recognize why we fight and what we are trying to accomplish. By the way, Spirit of America is a charity worthy of everybody's contribution, as they are a non-profit organization dedicated to helping military personnel get donated supplies to help the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan in reconstructing their countries. One-hundred-percent of their proceeds comes from the private sector. Check out their projects at their website and send them a few dollars to help them continue their good work.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Today's links

Via Neal Boortz: John Stossel has the teachers' unions angry at him and protesting outside his office and in other cities for publicizing such facts as these:

The constant refrain that "public schools need more money" is nonsense. Many countries that spend significantly less on education do better than we do. School spending in America (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled over the past 30 years, but national test scores are flat. The average per-pupil cost today is an astonishing $10,000 per student -- $200,000 per classroom! Think about how many teachers you could hire, and how much better you could do with that amount of money.

His hard-to-argue-with point is:

It's just a fact that rules that insist an energetic, hard-working teacher who makes learning fun must be paid exactly the same as a lazy, incompetent teacher are rules that promote mediocrity....

I'm sorry that union teachers are mad at me. But when it comes to the union-dominated monopoly, the facts are inescapable. Many kids are miserable in bad schools. If they are not rich enough to move, or to pay for private school, they are trapped.

It doesn't have to be that way. We know what works: choice. That's what's brought Americans better computers, phones, movies, music, supermarkets -- most everything we have. Schoolchildren deserve the joyous benefits of market competition too.

Unions say, "education of the children is too important to be left to the vagaries of the market." The opposite is true. Education is too important to be left to the calcified union/government monopoly.

Also via Boortz, Dick Morris (former Clinton insider) writes about Bill and Hillary Clinton "using their special circumstances as a convenient shield for one another, fulfilling, at once, Hillary's dream of no accountability and Bill's of being able to take both sides of an issue" (and rake in a nice payoff for it too, I might point out). Typical Clinton escapades are still going on as they play both sides of the United Arab Emirates Dubai ports deal. Morris sums up with this:

We should insist that:

  • Bill Clinton register as an agent of a foreign principal.
  • The Clintons say how much he makes from Dubai.
  • The Clinton library tell us how much Dubai royalty gave to the library.
  • And Bill disclose, in the future, whenever he is speaking as an ex-president or as a paid public-relations flack.
Yeah, we and what army? Certainly the mainstream media is not pressing the Clintons on any of this. Thank goodness for the blogosphere getting the news out.

Finally, Walter Williams at writes a succinct piece about Democrats (like Hillary Clinton and her "plantation" comment) pandering to historical black grievances for the black Democratic vote, and how this political tactic may soon be outdated and outflanked:

Ms. Rice's vision represents triumph rather than grievance. Steele says that by growing up in the segregated South, Ms. Rice might have claimed title to a grievance identity, but she's chosen the older black tradition where blacks neither deny injustice nor permit themselves to be defined by it.

Blacks like Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice are of no value to modern liberalism or the Democratic Party. Why? If blacks come to embrace triumph, rather than grievance, the wound to liberal Democrats would be mortal. It wouldn't take much of a desertion of the black vote to make Democrat hopes of recapturing Washington a permanent pipe dream.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Daily meditation / Our British forefathers

From the end of the chapter on "The British" in Conquests and Cultures: An International History by Thomas Sowell (Basic Books, 1998; my bold added):

The history of the British people, like the history of other peoples around the world, illustrates the enormous importance of human capital, whether in the form of specific skills, general education, or traditions and laws that facilitate both economic development and the development of free institutions. The many centuries that it took for the British to rise from cultural and economic backwardness to the forefront of world civilization in technology and political dominance suggests something of the difficulty of acquiring the necessary human capital. The vital role played in this process by numerous other peoples who came to the British Isles--whether as conquerors, immigrants, or refugees--also suggests how important cultural diffusion is. the Romans, the Normans, the Jews, the Lombards, and the Huguenots all contributed in important ways at different historical junctures to what would ultimately become a British achievement....

Geographical advantages and cultural imports have permitted more to be accomplished within the British Isles than in many other parts of the world but, ultimately, it was the British themselves who had to accomplish it. That they did so has had enormous consequences, not only for the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, or even for past and present members of the British Empire or Commonwealths, but for the entire world. The highly varying degrees to which different segments of the British population [Scots, Scotch-Irish, Welsh, Irish, Highlanders, Puritans, Cavaliers, etc.] acquired the necessary human capital demonstrates that the opportunity alone is not sufficient for economic or other accomplishments....

British law and its traditions of impartiality made London a magnet for the capital of the world, enabling Britain to industrialize with other people's capital, as well as its own. In a later era, the British colony of Hong Kong would similarly attract capital from around the world by the dependability and impartiality of its laws, while many poverty-stricken countries were unable to obtain much-needed capital because of their undependable laws and confiscatory policies toward foreign investors.

British law was of course more than an economic asset. Its separation of powers and rights of citizens against the government were the foundation of freedom of the British themselves. The revolutions of the seventeenth century, including the beheading of King Charles I in 1649 and the uprisings in 1688 that led James II to flee to France, made the separation of powers even more dramatically vindicated and an indelible a part of the British constitution. While many other countries copied British systems of law and government, those that succeeded in creating similarly free governments were largely those that came from the same tradition--the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand--for the historical experiences that were distilled into powerful traditions were essential to the functioning of the legal and political institutions themselves. While these institutions could be copied by anyone, their history and traditions behind them could not be synthesized, and it was these intangibles that made the tangible institutions and structures work.

I read history to learn lessons about what might be the best choices for individuals, societies, and nations to make in modern circumstances. When you think about centuries instead of the daily news cycle, it is clear that we in the U.S. are not so far from Britain at all in our institutions, traditions, history, and outlook. In fact, we are two peas in a pod, something I don't usually appreciate under the microscope of viewed differences found in daily life. I tend to think of the U.S. as unique and trail-blazing (as it is in many modern ways), but it is Britain that forged so many of our unique and trailblazing traits and traditions in the crucible of its own history, and the U.S. grabbed the ball and ran with it.

Sowell in this chapter includes a summary of how it was Britain, the leading slave-trading nation of the world, who ultimately ended the international slave-trade beginning in the early 1800s, at significant economic cost to itself. Sowell writes, "It would be hard to find anywhere in history a record of any other country going to such efforts, for so long, in a cause for which it could gain so little and lose so much."

Organized opposition to slavery on moral grounds arose among the British Quakers and the groundswell of public outrage of those eventually persuaded by them swept the anti-slavery movement around the world. Britain used its military and economic might to pressure other nations to abolish first the slave trade and then slavery, and sent the Navy ships of its Empire out to board and confiscate all ships carrying slaves, even within the boundaries of other sovereign nations. The U.S. Navy joined these anti-slave patrols in the Atlantic after the Civil War. (Do you suppose anyone in Congress at that time protested with arguments about the moral equivalence of multiculturalism?). Africa and the Middle East proved most intransigent to abolishing slavery; black slaves from Africa and white slaves from the Caucasus region continued to be smuggled for decades. Our own nation's history of ending slavery trailed along behind Britain's lead and was more connected to it and influenced by it than I had appreciated. A case could be made that the British Empire (not to whitewash its faults) did more than anything else to spread the evolution of freedom around the world.

--So little time, so much to learn and think about. I like to think about what makes nations unique, what works and doesn't work, why nations and economies fail, what "tangibles" and "intangibles" are necessary for a nation to survive or flourish. This book is packed with insights, so it's a great reward for the minutes spend reading it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Conservative comedians an extinct breed?

A friend emails me and asks if there are any conservative comedians/commentators:

BTW, are there any conservative equivalents of comedic folks like Jon Stewart (Bill Maher, Al Franken, et al.)? Seem to be a lot of liberal ones. I'd like to laugh from the other side too once in a while. Is the closest thing South Park, which lobs satire at everybody...?
Great question! Had me stumped for a bit. It's true Hollywood and the entertainment industry are dominated by those on the left side of the political aisle. Self-avowed, breast-beating conservative entertainers (let alone comics) are few and far between, probably reflecting a minority's sense of self-preservation through self-censorship (keeping their mouths closed and sidestepping discussions of politics in their workplace, where being branded as a conservative could mean career suicide).

But think about it: most people probably wouldn't immediately think of conservatives as being especially funny people anyway. One might think of conservatives (the ones who aren't viewed as downright evil) as being dour, serious, stern, and lacking a funny bone--like those Saturday Night Live parodies of the no-nonsense policy wonk, or the grasping, rapacious businessman, or the fundamentalist Christian finger-wagger. Or you might more charitably picture conservatives as amiable but fuddyduddy redneck Red-Staters, unable to really relate to, care about, or appreciate what the urban young hip demographic is laughing about today. With a native audience composed of unfunny people like that, maybe it's understandable no vast number of outstanding comics have sprung up from their ranks. Just like it's hard to think of any Germans being funny.

Drew Carey seems to agree that there are no conservative comedians. I did find an article that offered some names of current conservative comedians, but I've never heard of most of them, though their appearance on one of their tours was enough to snag the attention of a couple of bomb-threats--evidently liberals take their comedy dead-seriously. Then there's Dennis Miller, who with his writers won five Emmys for his HBO show in earlier years. He became a more out-front conservative after 9/11 (it changed his life, he said, as a lot of people have), and his show on CNBC was cancelled in 2005. Was it because he supported the G.O.P.? Or could it be he lost his ratings demographic because liberals don't have a sense of humor about what conservatives find funny? One of his former fans complained:
You were funny and informative.

Now you're a different man. You've changed a lot. You've lost your edge.

You've sold out.

Your affiliation with evil has taken away your soul and your credibility. It shows in your performance. Advocating genocide so the corporations can steal a country's resources must prey upon your subconscious.

Etcetera, etcetera.

I can relate to that sentiment, certainly. I feel the same way about losing my appetite for listening to Garrison Keillor since the last Presidential election.

But after I thought about it for awhile, a few names of conservative humorists came to me.... Ben Stein, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan....I'll keep thinking. Meanwhile, there's Ann Coulter: she doesn't do stand-up, but she dares to speak on college campuses and fields abuse from hecklers and pie-throwers, and writes satire with wit and sarcasm as well as any "edgy" liberal, while making cogent arguments like the lawyer she is. P. J. O'Roarke, former editor of the National Lampoon, is probably my very favorite conservative humor writer right now, not just because he makes me laugh, but because he's an observant and sharp writer, and because he's right. I also conrfess I do like Emmett Tyrell's snarky wit, though he is more akin to H. L. Mencken than to Jon Stewart. Then there's Mike S. Adams, poking fun at academia and feminists, who can also usually make me laugh.

But the Godfather of them all is actually pre-eminent in his own niche of the entertainment business and has singlehandedly transformed it into a powerhouse while working daily under our noses for years. So yes, there is a humorous conservative commentator just as prominent and more influential than Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, and Al Franken put together. And thanks to Rush Limbaugh, there is now a whole panoply of entertainer/commentators entertaining their listeners (sometimes more with comedy, sometimes more with politcal analysis) on talk radio, including folks like Neal Boortz, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham, and others.

The problem here is that I think a large portion of liberals would say all these folks are dishing out "hate speech" instead of comedy--or that they are just not funny. I guess it really comes down to whose sacred cows are being gored. Because if goring sacred cows is the definition of comedy, somebody's necessarily got to be insulted while the rest of the audience roars.

In the end, it would seem that focusing on one side or the other of politics in humor is by definition both limiting and divisive. Though I admit to enjoying some of these conservative or right-wing commentators, I do feel bad about the off-putting snarkiness of some of the "comedy" even when I agree with the analysis. I'm sure there are liberals who can feel the mean in some of Jon Stewart and Al Franken's zingers too. You can certainly enjoy the humor and listen to and evaluate the analysis and the arguments without forgetting it is a partisan presentation.

Bottom line for me is I prefer and feel better about enjoying the more even-handed, timeless and universal kind of humor of the Marx Brothers, a Buster Keaton, a Johnny Carson, or a Bob Hope, who hosted or co-hosted the Oscars 18 times (1939-1977), and of whom it was said:
He approached the craft of comedy in a way that is rare today. He didn’t have to resort to insulting others or demeaning his audience with filthy language. He was able to convey a great sense of humor without the shock value that so frequently makes up the repertoire of many of today’s comics.
Remember those good old days when "comedy" meant something entirely different? Or is it just me being...a conservative?

P.S. Michelle Malkins wrote about why she is "not a South Park conservative" and, never having watched it, I nevertheless think I would agree with her.

More stuff I need to know that I learned long after Kindergarten

...Continued from an earlier post.

Robert Fulghum wrote a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, listing such nuggets of wisdom as "share your toys" and "wash your hands." (Cute concept, though I've never read the book: All I really need to know is what the title says.)

Sadly, I'm slower; it took me many years to accumulate some things I really needed to know. In the interests of my younger readers, I'm offering an evolving list here. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

More stuff I need to know that I learned long after Kindergarten:

  • Check it out
If you have questions or don't understand what's going on or what another person means or is really feeling (and you are getting mixed or confusing signals), ASK about it. You don’t really know what people are thinking and they don’t know what’s in your mind unless you talk about it. The wise person risks looking stupid by asking questions to clarify a situation. Open your mouth and use words to progress in work and personal relationships. When in doubt, don't assume you know what people are thinking until you "check it out" and ask them.
  • Assertiveness is an asset

It is not wrong to disagree with people, as long as you do it politely, and there is always a polite way to say "no." Learn the differences between aggressiveness, being too pushy, and assertiveness (there are books on this). Learn techniques for standing up for yourself (politely). You also have the responsibility to politely cope with being refused or disagreed with by others. It helps to know some basic rules of etiquette so you can rest assured you are remaining politely correct when others pressure you to join them in being boorish.

  • Beware of gossip

Don't participate in gossip or start or pass on gossip or rumors behind other people’s backs. "What goes around comes around and will bite you in the back." Gossip once unleashed is uncontrollable and can be devastating to you and to others. When making a new friend, go slowly in trusting them with your private life and at first tell them only secrets you don’t mind too much if they reveal. If you find that they reveal your secrets to others in ways you don’t like, don't trust them again with anything more important about your private affairs. People can't take advantage of you more than once if you don't let them.

  • One strike and they're out

No one deserves to be abused, verbally, emotionally, or physically. Know the lines between friendly teasing and real bullying, and don’t bully people or let others bully you. If a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse ever hits you, know that the relationship is over and get out of it immediately. If your "friends" treat you disrespectfully or hurt your feelings just to be mean on purpose (even if they deny it, or accuse you of being too sensitive), they are not really your friends. If they attempt to get you to do things that are not healthy or legal (drugs, alcohol, lie to your parents, slack off in school, shoplift, etc.), or if they try to be controlling of your own decisions, actions, and thoughts, they are not your friends either. Don't go into contortions to please them; don’t go into denial about it—face reality and find better friends. It really is a much better feeling to be alone and open for new friendships than to be mired in an abusive situation.

  • You can't choose your family but you can choose your friends
Choose your friends carefully, as you will be judged by those you associate with. Your friends will affect you and you will affect your friends. Hang with people who will inspire and uplift you, support and bring out the best in you, not bring you down. Choose those who will listen and understand and be there for you when you need them. And be the kind of friend who listens, supports and uplifts others.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
I have found that a grateful heart is a happy and peaceful heart. I am touched and humbled by those who go out of their way for me, and I try to remember to thank everyone I can and tell and show my loved ones how I appreciate them, for you never know when the day may come that will be the last day you'll see them. I'm grateful for those teachers, ancestors, and unknown private and public figures already gone who made sacrifices resulting in allowing my life to be as privileged as it is. Finally, I thank my Creator for the many blessings I've received through no effort of my own. When you are unable to personally thank someone, you can still express gratitude by passing on the favor to others in his or her name. I have found the words of John Wesley to be a good guide in expressing love and thanks in this way to the world at large, too: "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." I may have been taught to say "thank-you" as a little kid, but it took me many adult years to understand the power and the treasure that is gratitude.
  • Make a list
Write down what you need/want to do and accomplish (whether it’s for the day, for the week, for the next ten years, etc.). It's the only way to stay organized, focused, and not forget or lose things. When facing a decision, it also helps to write down reasons pro and con. It helps to have lists available for rainy days, too ("Ten Things I Can Do Immediately to Cheer Myself Up When I’m Feeling Too Blue to Even Think Straight").
  • Make lemonade out of lemons
John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you are making other plans." There is a lot in life we can’t control and would not choose for ourselves. How you cope with the unexpected and the uncontrollable makes all the difference in your life—and your way of coping or not coping is entirely up to you. I have learned that facing a crisis realistically and rationally and working through it (not trying to avoid it, deny it, or run away from it) is the only way to really triumph over and wring some good out of a bad situation.
  • Apologize--it opens doors
Whenever I am feeling hurt or injured by someone (and angry at them), I can usually think about it and turn it around and see that somewhere in the conflict I did something wrong too. When I can spot this I gain a sense of control over the situation. When I sincerely apologize for the wrong I did, and just focus on my own responsibility to repair what I’ve done wrong, my anger is defused and usually a constructive and honest conversation can be started.
The quality and even length of your life will depend on the decisions you make. It’s important to listen to your heart, but it is almost always more important to be ruled by your head. Consider matters rationally, methodically (pros and cons) and visualize possible consequences before you make decisions. (See "Maximize your options" above.) Learn about logical proofs in arguments, and be able to spot fallacies so you won’t be taken advantage of. Also learn something about psychology and human defense mechanisms so you can spot how and why other people might be mistaken, deluded, or acting out in emotional or other mystifying ways that you would not want to be fooled by or drawn into. Protect yourself by developing discerning judgment about people, things, and ideas. As human nature and its frailties become more obvious to you, you will grow to cherish your ability to think clearly and wisely about the important things in your life. This ability becomes part of your accumulated "human capital," an invaluable tool in the bag of assets you carry with you through life.
  • Mistakes and failures are inevitable
You and everybody else will make them--mistakes and failures in judgment and in character. They may be nasty to experience, but they are not the enemy per se—they are a part of human life (or human sin, as Christians say). No matter how cautious and earnest you are, or how well educated or intelligent you are, though you can learn secondhand how the world works from others, nobody can tell you how to learn to know yourself. Your life is a brand-new story to tell and you must do that yourself through trial and error by encountering and dealing with many different people, circumstances, and ideas. Make a decision to take responsibility for and learn from your mistakes, and you will make far fewer of them. And then you may go ahead and be one of those who decide to say, along with Alfred Lord Tennyson, that "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Or, as W.C. Fields said, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it." Which leads me to my last bit of advice:
  • Don’t forget to laugh